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Juvenile's records not protected by counselor/client privilege

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The Howard Superior Court erred in finding that the counselor/client privilege prevented the admission of a son’s counseling records during a custody modification hearing, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

The trial court ruled that W.B.’s counseling records, which included his counselor’s notes, summaries, risk assessments, and status reports, were privileged and that no exception to the counselor/client privilege applied.

W.B. was adjudicated a delinquent after he admitted to a sexual battery charge against his sister A.B. A.B. and W.B. lived with their mother who had physical custody of the children after the mother and father divorced. When the father learned W.B. had touched his sister inappropriately, he reported it to Child Protective Services and A.B. moved in with her maternal grandparents due to a no-contact order between the siblings.

W.B. went to counseling, in which his social worker found he remained at a high risk to re-offend. W.B. was eventually discharged from treatment, his probation ended, and the no-contact order ended. A.B. moved back in to live with her mother and brother. That’s when the father petitioned for modification of custody seeking physical custody of A.B. due to the threat of potential molestations by W.B.

The trial court denied father’s petition to modify custody, finding A.B. is older and in school, and while the charges are substantial, they aren’t enough to modify custody.

The counselor/client privilege is set forth in Indiana Code Section 25-23.6-6-1, but it is subject to exceptions. I.C. Section 31-32-11-1 abrogates the privilege in proceedings resulting from reports of child abuse.

“The statute has been applied for the most part in criminal prosecutions,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in J.B. v. E.B. No.34A04-1002-DR-110. “But Section 31-32-11-1 is worded broadly and abrogates the enumerated privileges in ‘any judicial proceeding’ resulting from a report of child abuse or ‘relating to the subject matter of the report.’”   

A.B. reported that her brother touched her inappropriately, which led to W.B.’s delinquency proceedings and the father’s petition to modify custody. He wants to prevent further abuse of A.B., and the privileged information concerns the brother’s potential to re-offend.

“In line with the foregoing, we conclude that the instant case is a proceeding within the purview of Section 31-32-11-1 and in which the counselor/client privilege does not apply,” she wrote. “We therefore find the trial court erred in excluding W.B.’s counseling records on the basis of privilege. We also cannot say the error was harmless, given the content of W.B.’s counseling records and the limited grounds on which the trial court based its ruling.”

The case was remanded for further proceedings.
 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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